Judge orders public talks today with Children Services, union

A Montgomery County judge has ordered a public mediation session be held 1 p.m. today between the Montgomery County Children Services union workers and the county as a Sept. 21 deadline looms for an agreement to be reached on a new contract.

The union, represented by the Professionals Guild of Ohio (PGO), went on strike in July, but Common Pleas Judge Richard S. Skelton ordered them back to work almost immediately and issued a 60-day injunction preventing the workers from walking off their jobs. The injunction had been sought by Montgomery County. Both sides met in two recent private sessions on Sept. 6 and Sept. 11 as “the parties continue to make efforts to resolve the matter,” according to the court.

PGO represents about 270 child welfare workers who handle abuse and neglect cases for about 2,000 children.

The county has offered the employees a 3 percent raise across-the-board, a 1 percent range adjustment and a $500 lump sum equivalent to approximately an additional 1 percent.

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PGO has asked for a 6 percent increase, which they say is consistent with the county’s latest contract with workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union.

Attorney Nadia Lampton represents Children Services said she left recent negotiations feeling not confident.

“It doesn’t appear that a resolution is on the horizon, particularly given that the county’s proposal for a 5 percent across-the-board increase which would have applied to everyone but has not been put to a vote yet,” Lampton said. “The PGO bargaining committee has refused to take that 5 percent offer to the membership for a vote.”

Lampton said she is hopeful that the union membership will get a chance to vote on the offer so “they can decide their future and not have a few union leaders push their own agenda.”

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Jane Hay, the union's local president, saidthe county and its attorneys are not bargaining in good faith.

“If the county treated PGO fairly and the same as they do the other big Union (AFSCME) that they referenced, they would haven given us the same 6 percent and we would have had labor peace a long time ago,” Hay told this news organization. “Instead, being the smaller union, they always try to bully us and lawyer-up with expensive attorneys, at the taxpayers expense, to beat us down.”

She added, “PGO has been bargaining in good faith - as referenced in the fact-finders report. The truth will be revealed, as we expect a public hearing with Judge Skelton on Monday, Sept. 16.”

Tom Ritchie Sr., president of the Miami Valley AFL-CIO, said the organization feels like all employees should have a right to collectively bargain for their wages and that all employees are entitled to a reasonable standard of living.

“Anyone who goes to the bargaining table should be able to receive a pay raise based on what the pay raises are for all of the employees,” he said. “We feel and hope that PGO will get fair and equitable treatment for all of their members.”

Debbie Lieberman, president of the Montgomery County commission, said the county support all its local unions and their members.

“We value our union employees, and fully endorse the right of all our employees to collectively bargain and negotiate. The county has positive and healthy relationships with its major unions, including AFSCME, and values those partnerships,” Lieberman said. “The current situation with the PGO is clearly an anomaly in the long history of collective bargaining between the county and its union-represented employees.”

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